Harvard, MIT sue Trump administration over international student visa rules
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Wednesday sued the Donald Trump administration in the United States over expelling foreign students if their classes go online due to the pandemic. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had announced on Monday that international students pursuing degrees will have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities switch to online-only courses.
The two universities filed a lawsuit against the Monday order at the US District Court in Boston. The lawsuit sought a temporary restraining order that will put the "unlawful" policy on hold for 14 days, NDTV reported. The universities said they relied on the Department of Homeland Security's March policy allowing foreign students in the US to remain and welcoming students arriving this fall.
The ICE had said that the US Department of State would not issue visas to students in schools or programs that are fully online for the fall semester. Further, the US Customs and Border Protection would not allow the students to enter the US, the ICE added. The agency suggested to the students to consider transferring to schools with in-person instruction.
Students enrolled in US universities are given F-1 visas. The order could potentially impact thousands of Indian students. Reportedly, India had sent 2,51,290 students to the US in 2017 and 2018, the most after China (4,78,732).
The universities argued, "Many of these students do not have the means to safely travel outside of the country and face substantial barriers to online learning as a result of unavailable/unreliable internet connections, time zone variations, and other obstacles." They said, "If students cannot maintain their full-time student status, they will lose their ability to access work allowances in the summer and fall 2021."
Earlier, President Trump had criticized Harvard University for its decision to move all courses online. He had said at a White House roundtable discussion, "I think it's ridiculous. I think it's an easy way out. And I think they ought to be ashamed of themselves."
Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow said in a statement, "The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness." Bacow added, "It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others."